THAT is the prediction of a true die-hard Eagles fan who was alive the last time they were NFL Champions in 1960.
On the 10th of July, I was down at the bar celebrating that bastard’s 58th birthday, because he’s also been a friend of mine since 2009. His name is P.W. Rhodes, but everyone calls him Rhodie. Some of you know who I’m talking about, so you know you’ll get a kick out of this one.
When he said we’d be lucky to win 7, I asked him if he thought we’d be hit hard by injuries or something. He gave me his ‘You’re kidding, right?’ look, wiped his tongue on his napkin and raised his glass to Heaven. “From my lips to your ears!”
By this point I’d gotten out my tape recorder, because that ritual of his always means he’s breaking out the soap box, and that the bar was again, in danger of learning something. You know up til now, I’ve written over 100 articles on this site, and never before have I written a single, solitary word about a man I love like an uncle. So this article is as much about my friend Rhodie, as it is about the Eagles.
He finished his glass of Wild Turkey and off he went:
“Here’s the thing. You can’t win a football division without defense. You can win in baseball with just offense. You can be competitive in basketball with just a good offense. But if you don’t play good defense in football you’re dead in the water. Hockey too.”
“After we won in ’60, none of our teams could stop anybody. We used to chant “We’ll settle for slowin’ ‘em down! We’ll settle for slowin’ ‘em down!” Didn’t matter who bought the team or who they fired, the turd never lost it’s stink. We burned in hell for 16 years and then Vermeil gets here− Wait. Let me say this. At least under Kuharich we could score points. And that’s my point.” (Orders another drink) “The guy we got now has an offense but the defense has no tough guys on it. You can’t win like that. You need tough guys, and not just one either. This guy Kelly is like Kuharick.”
“Here’s the thing. We got fed dirt on defense last year and what did we do to change the feel of the defense? What did we do? Huh? Nothin’! We did nothin’! Those kids think what they did last year is fine because they all come back and will all start!”
At that point he said something that I have to admit kicked my enthusiasm for 2014 square in the balls.
“People expect them to be better because they played the same system last year. Here’s the thing, the Redskins kept the same system for the last few years. Did they improve? Did Pittsburgh? Did the Jaguars? All failing last year and getting to start this year teaches you is that you got away with failing. That’s the opposite of how you build a winner. Trust me. The only time I spent away from the Eagles was Vietnam, so I seen all their ups and downs.”
He and I fundamentally disagree about the Defense, since I think a year should help and I wrote as much. It wasn’t a year sucking in system they already knew. It was a year sucking in something they were learning on the fly.
But he does bring up a hell of a point. Shouldn’t there have been at least a minor tremor? We were out-toughed in a nationally televised playoff game, and so far it’s all copacetic.
The Defensive Line that was man-handled will all return as starters. Our un-clutch Kicker isn’t even being seriously challenged by management to improve; and no move has been made at bringing in an obvious upgrade. then there’s the over-matched O-line that had trouble getting the kind of clear rushing holes for our RB, that New Orleans seemed to find all night long for theirs. Aside from a possible suspension for PED’s none of that has even the potential for changing this year.
“Unlike last year the NFC East ain’t just gonna lay down roll over and play dead for us again and we don’t have the talent to dominate on defense. It’s gonna be the 1960’s out there all over again. You watch.”
I don’t agree with Rhodie’s assessment, but arguing with someone who’s been there and done that, only makes you look like a complete dope if you bust your nose because you ignored their warning. Normally I do a prediction article every year after the pre-season, but this year I may just hold off on that.